The San Blas Artisans surround the Church of San Blas, creating a neighborhood that is also known as the District of the Artists. These artists, and the families of these artists are Olave, Merida, Aguayo, Aguilar, Alvarez, Segovia, Saloma, and I’m sure there are a few more. We were told if a door was open, or in some cases unlocked, we were free to walk in and look at the art. We checked out Merida’s work by simply wandering in what felt like a private courtyard. Later, we were able to check out Mendivil’s long-neck pieces by sneaking down a long covered corridor leading to a couple of courtyards, some artisans working, a museum, and even a shop to take a few pieces home if you were interested.
Edilberto Mérida’s daughter actually greeted us when we peeked our heads into the courtyard wondering what there was to see. She warmly ushered us in and grabbed a set of keys to open up a museum/show room. The huge statue (above) in the courtyard, is a perfect example of his work. All of the ceramic pieces were incredibly expressive and included a lot of religious work- Jesus on the cross, and various nativity scenes seemed to be his favorites. I couldn’t get over how lovely his daughter was, although when she explained how easy it would be to ship any items home I became a little more understanding. Regardless, the museum/showroom entrance was (is) free with the minor exception of a small donation that we were told would go to a local charity. If you’re interested in visiting, Mérida’s work can be found at Carmen Alto 133, San Blas, Cusco (Phone: 084/221-714)
Hilario Mendívil is arguably the most famous of the San Blas Artisans. I found his long-neck sculptures really interesting especially given that the long-neck tribes (Kayan Lahwi) are typically from/in Thailand and Burma, not exactly close to Peru… I couldn’t figure out what inspired his long-neck sculptures until I researched it online and found a great description on Fodor’s here. According to the description, Legend has it that Mendívil saw llamas parading in the Corpus Christi procession as a child and later infused this image into his religious art, depicting all his figures with long, llama-like necks.
There’s a small gallery/museum and a shop selling Mendívil-style work- I’m guessing his descendants were the ones working in the adjacent studio.
If you’re interested in visiting, Mendívil’s work can be found at Plazoleta San Blas 634,San Blas, Cusco (Phone: 084/240-527)